Doug Jones Upsets Roy Moore in Nail-Biting Alabama Senate Race

Voters were split on the validity of the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Moore, exit polls show

Alabama Senate Race

Doug Jones, the underdog Democrat in deep-red Alabama, upset Republican Roy Moore in one of the strangest and most consequential Senate campaigns in recent U.S. history, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Moore’s razor-thin loss means the GOP’s already slim majority will shrink to 51-49, putting the pressure on Republicans as they try to enact their conservative legislative agenda and set their sights toward the 2018 mid-term elections.

Moore’s campaign was hampered by accusations by nine women that he made unwelcome sexual advances on them in the 1970s, when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman said she was 14 at the time.

Though Moore repeatedly and vehemently denied the accusations, they cast a cloud over his campaign that prompted many top Republicans to distance themselves from the former judge.

Earlier in the day, Republican lawmakers warned that should Moore win, they would meet Wednesday morning to discuss a “menu of options” that they could take to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Alabama voters were split on the validity of the allegations, according to early exit polls. Just under half of those surveyed said they believed the accusers, while more than four in 10 said they did not.

Moore denied he had even met any of the women who accused him. At one of many bizarre points in the campaign, Moore’s backers argued over whether a yearbook message he was accused of writing to one of the women was a forgery.

The accusations briefly rendered Moore a political pariah in Washington. Much of the Republican establishment distanced itself from the former Alabama judge famous for his prominent display of the Ten Commandments — a move that resulted in his suspension from the bench.

But after his poll numbers seemed to steady, and President Donald Trump said he needed Moore’s vote to pass his agenda, the Republican National Committee reinstated its support of Moore’s campaign.

Trump, who has also denied accusations of sexual misconducted, tweeted Tuesday: “VOTE ROY MOORE!”

Moore’s defeat is the latest political setback for Trump, who had endorsed Moore’s Republican primary opponent, Luther Strange, earlier this fall only to see Moore move forward in the special election against Jones to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday with a steady though not especially strong turnout, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Moore, together with his wife, rode a horse named Sassy to their polling place outside his hometown of Gadsden. He did the same thing during the primary run against interim Republican Sen. Luther Strange.

Jones cast his ballot in Mountain Brook, a suburb of Birmingham, expressing confidence in his prospects.

Without the accusations of Moore preying on teens, the race never would have been in contention: Alabama is one of the reddest states in the union, and is anything but welcoming to most Democratic candidates.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, made a name for himself after prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members accused of bombing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that a woman accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with her when she was 14 years old and he was 32.

The Post also spoke to three other women who said Moore made sexual advances toward them when they were between 16 and 18 years old. Then other women came forward accusing Moore of sexual misconduct, including one who alleged Moore assaulted her when she was 16.

Moore initially said that he may have dated women in their later teens, famously telling Sean Hannity last month during a radio interview: “I don’t remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” But he later insisted he did not know any of the accusers.

Moore’s time as a judge also raised eyebrows. In 2004, Moore was removed from the bench as a judge in Alabama after refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building. In 2016, he was suspended and later resigned as the state’s chief justice for ordering lower courts to disobey the 2015 Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriages.